Tired of that burning sensation in your chest -- particularly at night?
Could your painful swallowing, nausea, heartburn be caused by Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
If you experience a burning sensation in your chest, sometimes spreading to your throat, along with a sour taste in your mouth, difficulty swallowing, dry cough, regurgitation of food or sour liquid, it could be GERD (acid reflux). Many people suffering from GERD try antacids or prescriptions, which block the production of acid in the stomach and also protect the esophagus from damage. In addition to medication—eating smaller meals, sleeping on an incline and eliminating acidic foods from your diet may alleviate symptoms.
However, when medication and lifestyle changes are not providing relief—it may be time to consider surgical treatment. Heartland Regional Medical Group surgeons can perform surgical repair for GERD, and many times the procedures can be minimally invasive.
A Q&A Session about GERD with General Surgeon Kevin Claffey
Women and men of all ages can develop GERD, so it’s important to know what GERD is. We spoke with Dr. Claffey, a General Surgeon at Heartland Regional Medical Group, to learn the basics.
First things first: What is a GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease. GERD occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, stomach content, flows back into your food pipe (esophagus). The backwash (reflux) irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD.Both acid reflux and heartburn are common digestive conditions that many people experience from time to time. When these signs and symptoms occur at least twice each week or interfere with your daily life, or when your doctor can see damage to your esophagus, you may be diagnosed with GERD.
Who can treat my GERD?
Most people can manage the discomfort of GERD with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. A primary care doctor may help some people with GERD by using stronger medications to reduce symptoms.
As a general surgeon, I specialize in treating GERD surgically. The most common reason for surgery is heartburn that doesn't go away with medications and lifestyle changes. Surgery may also be an option when you have:
- Severe inflammation of your esophagus, the tube that runs from your mouth to your stomach
- A narrowing of your esophagus that's not caused by cancer
- Barrett's esophagus, a change in the cells because of acid reflux
Before surgery, you'll probably get tests to check how well the muscles in your esophagus work, including esophageal manometry and esophageal motility studies.
Is there anything I can do to prevent GERD?
Unlike many conditions, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is almost completely preventable.
There are a number of steps you can take to prevent the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which over time can damage the esophageal lining and can lead to a host of illnesses, including throat cancer. However, what will help one person avoid GERD might not necessarily help another.
Here are 10 things you can do to try and prevent GERD:
- Lose weight.
- Avoid foods known to cause reflux.
- Eat smaller meals.
- Don't lie down after eating.
- Elevate your bed. Raising the head of your bed six to eight inches can help gravity keep gastric acid down in your stomach.
- Review your medications. There are a number of medications that can increase your risk of GERD. Talk to your doctor.
- Quit smoking.
- Cut back on alcohol.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes. Do not wear tight clothing or belts that can constrict your stomach.
- Try a gluten-free diet.
Dr. Claffey is a member of the medical staff at Heartland Regional Medical Center. Patient results may vary. Consult your physician about the benefits and risks of any surgical procedure or treatment.